Last week Hardspace: Shipbreaker released on Steam in Early Access. I liked the look of the game, which falls neatly into the space and simulation genres. The game does a good job of giving the impression of working in Zero-G – utilising tools that impart energy results in opposite reactions for yourself so you can wind up drifting around quite a lot. The graphics are good although the game rightly comes with an epilepsy warning at the start because you can get some quite vivid flashing effects.

There are currently two modes of play – Career and Free Play. The background to Career mode is that you have signed on to be a ‘Cutter’ – a worker who breaks up old space vessels and salvages the parts. You are an indentured employee with a huge debt to Lynx – your employer. You have to work to pay back your debt but you also have to pay for the hire of your equipment, your habitation unit and even the oxygen you breathe – Very topical at a time when we are recalling the effects of slavery but whether the developers intended it that way I doubt. I think it’s more likely to be based on the system of legalised slavery within the Empire in the game Elite Dangerous though the background story is very different. Free Play is just an opportunity to practise your skills, get to know the ships a bit better and to generally have some fun.

Currently the game is a bit limited because it is still Early Access. There have been some design decisions in Career mode that, whilst intended to give the player a challenge, can be quite frustrating. Each shift lasts 15 minutes and your Oxygen supply lasts around 7 minutes (depending on how much you can do inside the ship before you evacuate the atmosphere). Having to go back to the Hab unit to buy more oxygen mid-shift, sometimes twice, initially felt a little too much. But after spending some time in Free play to get some practise in ship breaking I found it less tedious when I restarted my Career save and began the shift process again. I do think there maybe a case for increasing the shift length and oxygen supply duration but, if that were to happen, perhaps there could be an option for the player to choose to carry out their work detail in a shorter shift for a greater reward?

I think this game has a lot of potential especially with things like discovered objects in the derelict spacecraft. Some of these are already building a background story and I can see all sorts of possibilities for future development in that area – who knows, perhaps we may find alien stoways? Overall I like this game and I’m glad I decided to invest in the Early Access 🙂

Here’s some screenshots taken in Free Play mode…
…Those last 2 shots are of me being electrocuted after I deliberately sliced through the cockpit area – Space is Dangerous and the game will reward bad cutting decisions with Depressurisations, Electrocutions, Fuel Explosions and Reactor Meltdowns 😉